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Die buddhistischen Tempelanlagen des Kiyomizu-dera zur Kirschblütenzeit, Bild: f11photo / shutterstock

Kyoto – Cultural beauty in the heart of Japan

Along with Osaka and Tokyo , Kyoto is often listed at the top of the lists that name the most beautiful cities in Japan. With about 1.4 million inhabitants and a large selection of historical sights, the city in the heart of the Asian country is not just an insider tip. Kyoto is one of the most culturally important cities in Japan – and is considered one of the country’s most beautiful urban tourist destinations.

The tourist highlight in the heart of Japan

To the east of the city, the Buddhist temples of Kiyomizu-dera rise above Kyoto’s picturesque cityscape. The historic temples are among the most famous sights in the region and shape the face of the city. Their history dates back to the late 8th century of Japanese history – today they are considered part of the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old City. From here you can take a look at the panorama of Kyoto, which is located between natural greenery and mountains that are sometimes 1000 meters high.

Only about 50 kilometers separate Kyoto from Osaka, another urban highlight in the heart of Japan. It is about 400 kilometers to Tokyo. Together, the three major cities form the urban center of the country. Kyoto has a long history. When the city was not yet called Kyoto, but Heian-kyo , it became the second capital of Japan in the late 8th century after Heijo-kyo. Already at that time, Kyoto developed into an early political but also cultural heart of the country. Until 1868, the seat of the imperial court of the country of Japan was located here. The importance of the city was also known in the USA during the Second World War, when the city was largely spared from bombing due to its cultural treasures. And the city has lost none of its culturally significant aura to this day.

The most beautiful sights in Kyoto

The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto
The Golden Pavilion, Image: Guitar photographer / shutterstock

Historic Kyoto is the name of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has included 17 different locations in and around Kyoto since its appointment in 1994. These include the already mentioned Kiyomizo-dera but also the temple Kyōō Gokoku-ji in the Minami district, which rises prominently above the cityscape. In the Kyoto region, many of these historic temples can be discovered, which typically present themselves in photogenic natural and urban scenery. Also part of the World Heritage Site are the two Shinto shrines Kamowakeikazuchi and Kamomioya.

In the mountainous northwestern region of the city lies the Golden Pavilion, which is embedded in a picturesque lake. The Buddhist temple is one of Kyoto’s most famous and beautiful sights – and was built in the late 14th century as an important monument in the region. The presence of the emperors in Kyoto is commemorated today by the architecturally significant Kyoto Gosho, the former imperial palace where the Japanese Tennos resided until the 19th century.

Fushimi Inari is the name of one of the most beautiful shrines in the region. The Shinto shrine can be discovered in the Fushimi district, and is known for its paths with red Toori gates, which are fascinating in themselves. The special origin story of the prominent shrine can be traced back to the 8th century. The shrine is also considered the venue for many ritual festivities held annually in the Kyoto region. In addition, the Heian-jingu Shrine is considered an equally important shrine in the city. It is one of the largest buildings of its kind in the region.

Japanese geishas have a long tradition in the historic center of Gion. The scenery of the district is reminiscent of the historical Japan that has shaped the city of Kyoto to this day. If you want an idyllic walk between sightseeing, you will feel at home along the Philosopher’s Path, which is dedicated to the important Japanese thinker Kitaro Nishida. He regularly walked along the city path. The highlight is the path – as well as Maruyama Park – at the annual cherry blossom season, when many of the surrounding trees present themselves in a beautiful natural blaze of colour.

A view of the more modern Kyoto is provided by the Kyoto Tower, which rises about 131 meters above the cityscape. The modern landmark of Kyoto has an observation deck that offers a panoramic view of the whole of Kyoto.

The culinary side of Kyoto

Fushimi Inari, Kyoto
Fushimi Inari, Image: Takashi Images / shutterstock

Kyoto is not only considered an important center of Japan historically and culturally, but also in terms of cuisine, the city in the heart of the country is a hotspot worth visiting. Kyoto’s cuisine is called Nishiki Market, which is known for its excellent restaurants, food stalls and specialty shops. Kyoto itself presents itself as a gourmet center of Japan that has quite a few specialties to offer. Whether sushi, tempura or the local ramen variant – many of these specialties can also be discovered in the Nishiki Market. Like many places in the south of the country, Kyoto is known for its fresh matcha specialties. The particularly high-quality variant of green tea can be discovered here in many forms and variants. If you want to escape the never-tired city of Toyko and explore the cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto with its sights and specialties should not be missed.